Alex Ganum started in the kitchen, but it wasn’t long before the Michigan native switched to the brewhouse. An inspiring internship at Brewery Ommegang in upstate New York led to Portland. After three years of working in production for BJ’s, he founded Upright Brewing near Portland Memorial Coliseum in 2006. We spoke by phone on May 1, and Ganum shared insights that hint at why he’s found hop-fueled success.
Was it a given that you’d work with beer for a living, or did you consider other careers?
It’s been a long time since I was in beer. It was probably 2002 where I wanted to pursue brewing as a career.
What were you doing for a living leading up to working with beer?
I was in culinary school when I started brewing, but I took to brewing a lot more than other stuff, so I finished school and pursued a beer job.
What was your first professional beer job?
I had an internship at Brewery Ommegang in 2003. That was really cool. I moved back to Portland and worked at the local BJ’s for a little over three years.
How did the opportunity come about for Upright?
It was just something I had been thinking about for a long time. It eventually got to the point where I wanted to leave BJ’s, and decided I might as well do it now, so started to figure things out from there.
Do you have a first beer memory, good or bad?
I remember drinking a lot of German pilsner. My dad always had Spaten or Paulaner Pilsner in the fridge, and Sam Adams Boston Lager too.
What was the first beer that you ever brewed, and how did it turn out?
The first beer we made at Upright was an Old Ale called Billy The Mountain. It came out nice. We put a little bit of Brett in the barrel and started to learn about barrel aging. We’ve learned a ton since, which is cool and exciting from a professional standpoint.
My first homebrew was a mild ale that was part of a kit, and I remember doing a porter, and all the beers that homebrewers go through. My first whole grain beer was a Belgian style Golden, and I remember propping yeast out of a bottle, so that was kind of fun..
What’s the criteria for a beer that you brew at Upright?